Bayan Muna disputes ‘lack of budget’ claim, says admin ‘inefficient’ in tapping funds
MANILA, Philippines – A party-list group has disputed President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that government is lacking funds needed to respond to lockdown brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, insisting that the chief executive only needs to look into the 2020 budget.
According to Bayan Muna leaders Rep. Carlos Zarate and chair Neri Colmenares, the delays in the government’s social amelioration program is not due to the budgetary shortage, as Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act has given Duterte powers to tap into the items in the budget.
Rather, both Zarate and Colmenares said that it is due to Duterte’s and his administration’s inefficiency.
“It is not true that the reason for the confusion and the failure to give financial assistance to people is because there are no funds. He promised us that he will be able to get all the funds, if we give him emergency powers through the Bayanihan Law. But until now, many are still left without help from government,” Zarate said in a statement on Tuesday.
“There are billions in the budget that are yet untapped which were actually contained in his Report but President Duterte is very slow and inefficient in tapping these funds,” he added.
During his public address on Monday, Duterte asked the Department of Finance to generate more funds, even jokingly saying to find ways even if it meant robbing or borrowing money, as the P270 billion fund initially set aside to answer needs brought by the lockdown appears to be not enough.
Due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, work except for the frontline services have been suspended, leaving people — especially those who rely on daily wages — left with nothing to spend for food.
R.A. 11469 was enacted by Congress during a special session last March 23. Under the law, Duterte will be given powers to realign, reallocate, and reprograms items in the 2020 General Appropriations Act towards projects intended to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
Colmenares claimed that Duterte was just playing with the public to look pitiful, saying that there were items in the 2020 budget that may be used to source the P270 billion fund.
“It is not true that there are no funds to support the Php 270 Billion outlay for the amelioration fund. Nagpapaawa lang sya kunyari para matabunan ang kapalpakan nya (He is just making himself look pitiful to cover up for his shortcomings),” Colmenares explained.
The former lawmaker said listed several possible sources including projects that may be discontinued (P189.8 billion). Other sources include:
-advanced remittances from the Philippine Ports Authority, Manila International Airport Authority, and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (P10 billion);
-Cebu Ports Authority (P500 million);
-dividends from government-owned and controlled corporations (P78.6 billion);
-Department of Energy unutilized funds (P12.34 billion);
-other items from government agencies
“The above already totaled to Php 291 billion, more than covering the Php 270 billion budget needed for amelioration fund for the people. If we include the Php 154.1 Billion previously allocated to 4Ps, Quick Response Funds, Social Pension fund and other budget items he should have hundreds of billions in his command,” Colmenares noted.
“President Duterte does not want to admit that his administration is slow in responding to the crisis and has not been able to give the necessary funds to the LGUs as well as the 18 Million families he promised to help when he asked Congress to pass the Bayanihan Law,” he added.
Earlier, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease has extended the ECQ until April 30 as COVID-19 cases are still on the rise.
Department of Health officials said on Tuesday that there are now at 3,764 patients infected with COVID-19, 177 of which have already died while at least 84 have recovered.
Worldwide, over 1.3 million cases have been confirmed, while 74,355 have died from the disease and 272,426 have recovered from it.
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